Thank you for your support today! As a result, I will be serving our community as a council member for the next two years effective July 1. Congratulations to Linda Colbert and Pasha Majdi for being reelected to Town Council and to Laurie DiRocco for winning another term as mayor. I look forward to working with you in the coming years for the benefit of Vienna. I would also like to thank Craig Burns and Roy Baldwin for a race well run. I believe a number the issues they raised during the course of the campaign resonated with voters and I would like to seek solutions to them for the benefit our community.
Tomorrow is election day in Vienna. Please come to the polls and express your choices to lead our community.
Polling Location: Vienna Presbyterian Church
Polling Hours: 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
…please don’t let me be misunderstood.
Will things develop faster or slower due the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) Zoning Amendments? Really, only the market will determine the pace of development. That market is already being significantly rearranged due to the Tysons redevelopment.
So the important conversation is about how the Town of Vienna will control development. What can we do? Here are some important points to consider about the Town’s commercial zoning:
Existing Commercial Zoning
If a developer submits an application that conforms to the Vienna’s existing zoning and site plan requirements and does not require a variance or conditional use permit the development is termed by right. Vienna’s existing commercial zoning (C-1, C-1A, C-1B and C-2) permits by right a wide variety of business-related land uses, including: product sales; home installation services; offices, recreation, repairing, manufacturing, processing or assembly businesses, restaurants; and apartments. There are other uses that are conditional or require a use permit subject to approval like motels, drive thrus, medical facilities, animals hospitals, etc.
There are a number of minimum requirements to be conforming:
- 15 foot front yard setback to building
- 0 foot setback side yard
- 10 foot rear yard set back to building
- 35 foot height limit (effectively 3 floors)
- Rental apartments on 2nd or 3rd floor only but cannot exceed 50% of square footage.
- Entire operation of the business or activity shall be conducted wholly within an enclosed building.
Town council and planning commission have no say in a proposed commercial development submission as long as it conforms to existing commercial zoning regulations and site plan requirements. Reviews are handled at the staff level. There is no public hearing requirement. Board of Architecture Review has limited review against basic architectural standards.
MAC Zoning, What It Does
It provides the Town control, first and foremost
Requires rezoning and site plan:
- Board of Architecture Review at initial design phase against standards and the final architectural design
- Planning Commission review/recommendation to Council approval
- Town Council review/approval or rejection
Sets specific requirements for:
- Front and side yards
- Height limit w/ specification related to roof peaks
- Parking and loading minimums and location
- Pedestrian pathways
- Bicycle parking
- Sidewalk zones
- Tree coverage in parking lots
- 10% open space set aside
- Site configuration
- Roof forms, overhangs and parapets
- Neighborhood compatibility protections in setback distance and height, screening walls
- Building facades and architecture (transparency and materials)
It creates the opportunity for different types of development than existing commercial zoning, including mixed-use residential condominium/retail spaces.
Incentivizes things that the Town desires:
- Green building certification
- Water conservation and quality
- Closing driveways (which reduces traffic congestion)
- Public art
- Commercial recycling
- Public parking and shared parking
- Transit and bicycle amenities
Provides an applicant one extra floor of development to four floors (54 feet, 62 feet including mechanical systems). For this, the Town receives many things it desires to retain the small town atmosphere many people in our community talk about. MAC Zoning also gives the Town something more important… the ability to say, “No.” For a comparison of commercial by-right zoning to the Maple Avenue Commercial Zoning see this presentation.
MAC Zoning, What It Isn’t
Unlike the existing commercial zoning, MAC Zoning does not allow a developer carte blanche to do whatever they want; to build to whatever architecture that suits them.
The MAC zoning amendments were not created in the dark, it was not a closed process. It was created through a series of public meetings over two years of Maple Avenue Vision Steering Committee representing all facets of the Towns boards, commissions, businesses and residents supporting by Town staff and an external consultant (Elisabeth Lardner who designed the Town Green). The group worked through many different versions and variations to reach consensus on the complex planning and zoning issues addressed in the amendments. All of which is documented here.
The resulting Maple Avenue Commercial Zoning Regulations were proposed to Planning Commission and recommended to the Council which passed them after a public hearings before each.
[BACKGROUND: The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association asked all candidates ten questions as part of the Candidate Forum on April 21st. Below is a narrative version my response to this question.]
This may be a question for the police. I never see bike riders stop when crossing Church Street on the bike path. What can be done? Also too many motorist do not stop at stop signs all over Town. With more density and cars, is it time to consider “stop sign cameras”? If not, what pro-active measures would you recommend besides police patrols, since they cannot be everywhere?
Traffic safety is made of four legs of a stool:
- Emergency response
Safety is a community and collaborative effort, so for all the items mentioned below assume that baseline of facilitation and consensus building.
For bicyclists, education of young riders is available through programs offered by the Vienna Police, elementary schools, bicycle shops and bicycle organizations like Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Adult riders education is primarily through the last two groups. Much of this already occurring but it is always helpful to increase collaboration. (Note that all drivers need to on-going education and reinforcement as well)
Police enforcement should be part of comprehensive plan focusing on safety and where the highest risks exist whether with bicyclists, pedestrians or drivers. Where there are significant conflict points like the W&OD / Church Street crossing, I would expect that would be of high importance.
Stop sign cameras are not currently allowed in Virginia (at least in my review). The state does explicitly allow “traffic light signal violation monitoring systems” aka red light cameras (§ 15.2-968.1. Code of Virginia) but this is only for signalized intersections.
Engineering covers such a wide range of topics it could be several posts by itself, so I will just hit some highlights where Town staff can be creative but still be within accepted engineering practice:
- Different sign and pavement marking treatments on trails approaching intersections. This can be applied really any intersection.
- Roadway design features as part of our traffic calming program such as road narrowing, raise intersections, etc. have been demonstrated being effective in making streets safer
One other item I want to mention, is the Streets subsection of updated Comprehensive Plan that I drafted on behalf of the Transportation Committee of the Planning Commission. This subsection introduces the concept of connecting street design to adjacent land uses. This is important and different because it defines streets based on the use people make of them rather than simply a place for traffic.
In closing, I should mention the last item, emergency response. When, in the unfortunate case a crash occurs, the time for emergency medical services to be on scene to provide treatment and move any injured people to hospitals for advanced treatment is of paramount important in survivability.
I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.
My Back Pages — Bob Dylan
When I started my career as a young engineer right of out of Purdue University, I went to work for the City of Los Angeles Transportation Department. As you would expect, in LA, we were all about moving traffic…cars, buses, trucks, etc. At the time the city was spending tens of millions of dollars expanding its traffic responsive signal system…that was 25+ years ago. We followed the standards and guidelines…and we really moved traffic. The Rolling Stones concert at the L.A. Coliseum we could completely empty in about 45 minutes, lots of green signals in the traffic peaks, rush hour traffic lanes ticketed and towed by parking officers…all the most aggressive approaches to address congestion.
Fast forward 16 years later, when I worked at the District Department of Transportation in Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to work with Karina Ricks on the city’s Great Streets Initiative under Mayor Williams. This approach was to create urban spaces on major thoroughfares in the city using infrastructure projects. The city did a lot of design work when I was there and some of the projects have been built, most notably H Street, NE. The city also was aggressively moving forward with traffic calming, bicycle lanes and other approaches to make neighborhoods safer and provide alternate transportation options
Through this process my perspective about the purpose of streets changed…
Streets are for people.
When streets are designed for people, businesses are successful, engagement between community members increases, safety improves. What transportation a person choses to use is a product of the type of trip they making between different activities.
- Drive to and park the car to go grocery shopping, pick up dry cleaning, and a cup of coffee.
- Walk to a restaurant
- Take shuttle bus to Metro to work.
- Bicycle to school and the park
Land uses should not be driven by parking lot size and driveway entrances simply for cars. Choices for land uses should driven by the communities needs for residences, businesses, parks, libraries at the like. Streets are a means not an end; more simply they connect people to activities.
For more information online on absentee voting go to Fairfax County Department of Elections:
Deadline to apply for an absentee ballot online, mail, fax or email: Received by the Office of Elections by April 26, 5 p.m.
What you need to do:
- You can apply for your absentee ballot online; Or: Print the online absentee ballot application (PDF). Absentee ballot applications are also available at county governmental centers and library branches, or call the Office of Elections at 703-222-0776 (TTY 711).
- Complete the absentee ballot application (PDF) – make sure you sign the application.
- Fax the application to the Office of Elections at 703-324-3725, or email the application to email@example.com. Or, mail to the Office of Elections, Box 10161, Fairfax, VA 22038.
- Once your application is received, your absentee ballot will be sent to you within three business days, beginning no later than Jan. 15. If you have questions about your ballot, call the Office of Elections at 703-222-0776 (TTY 711).
The deadline for your mail-in absentee ballot to be received by the Office of Elections is Election Day, May 3 at 7 p.m.
You can keep tabs on the status of your mail-in absentee ballot application and ballot. Go to the Virginia Citizen Portal and click on Absentee Status.
Fairfax County Government Center, Suite 323
12000 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035
Weekdays March 18 to April 29
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Thursday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday Schedule, April 30, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(April 30 s last day to absentee vote in-person)
[BACKGROUND: The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association asked all candidates three questions for their newsletter. Below is a much expanded version of my response]
What do you anticipate will be the biggest changes to life in Vienna in the next 5-10 years [with the new Maple Avenue Corridor development options, growth in Tyson’s Corner, widening of I-66 and potential for increasing traffic levels]?
First and foremost, I believe that Vienna will find ways to maintain that sense of community that ranks our town as one of the best places to live. We should not be fearful for the future, rather we should be prepared with presence and advocacy for what we want in our Town as distinct from Tysons, Falls Church, Merrifield, or the rest of Fairfax County. That is not stay we should be stagnant or try to turn back the clock. We are in 2016 and there are important new challenges to be able to expand the Town’s vibrant community.
We need to look forward while understanding what make our Town special, looking backward to remember who we are…looking forward, finding ways we can, rather then reasons we can’t. We need to have that conversation, together!
People and Housing
Demographics of Vienna will change with more older residents looking to downsize from single family homes. New families will be moving into town looking for single family homes near the growing employment center in Tysons.
The trend of residential teardowns and larger, new homes will continue due to market demand. However, Town staff will step up their reviews the proposed and final site plans for conformance to Town codes. We will see housing alternatives for young couples and empty nesters such as condominium and townhome residences as part of Maple Avenue redevelopment. We will find methods to encourage retention of mid-range price point single family homes. The Town of Vienna will be challenged to find housing in the community for its employees to both live and work here. The Town’s zoning code will become a living document rather than a ‘once every five year set and forget’ exercise.
We will see new businesses established and some others come and go. Vienna will become a distinct destination rather than simply a path to work. Residents of Tysons will come to Vienna to shop and eat. The Town will define an economic vision for development and leverage supporting incentives or credits available to encourage the foundation and expansion of local and small businesses.
With addition of new residents from younger generations, the Town will move to embrace the current trends in using technology to connect with its citizens and businesses. Printed newsletters and information will still be issued to the community, but many residents will receive their information though smart phones and tablets. Elected and appointed officials along with staff will become a strong presence in northern Virginia advocating for Vienna’s distinct community. There will be increased civic engagement in community and regional issues.
Maple Avenue will remain congested but adding the focus on community with unifying street design, improved walkability, and more transit service. VDOT has several projects in the works that could potentially affect Maple Avenue that will be completed in this time frame: the I-66 Outside the Beltway Project, the East-West Integrated Corridor Management Study and the VA Route 123 widening in Tysons as part of the Tysons Comprehensive Plan build-out. We can expect some diversion onto Maple Avenue where construction will be involved . Post-opening, we will likely see an easing of cut through traffic in Vienna due to the highway project and expansion of transit service from Vienna Metro to Tysons…but will build back up over time in the 10-20 year time horizon.
Each of these projects and studies provide an opportunity to work collaboratively with VDOT to leverage money improvement the Town’s traffic signal system and regional transit service. The Maple Avenue zoning amendments give the Town control over development and the amount of parking and traffic created in comparison to by-right development. The mix of uses on along Maple Avenue will allow people to put together multiple trips by parking once and walking from place to place.
The Town through the Comprehensive Plan and the Town’s transportation design standards will see residential streets designed for people and the adjacent land uses rather simply for traffic. There will be more neighborhood roundabouts designed and installed beyond the first one at Park and Locust Streets SE.
Over the longer term horizon we will see the changes in traffic operation and safety in the 10-20 year range with the increased availability of connected vehicles that use communications for crash avoidance and driving in congested conditions.
The Town will continue to maintain its Aaa Bond Rating and will further align its strategic plan to programmatic and capital budgeting. There will be an on-going conversation about the value of Town services vs. the tax rate and tax assessments especially in the context of Fairfax County’s increasing rates and assessments. The Town will move toward a performance management approach to administration of departments.
The Town will continue to be successful in capturing grant money for infrastructure projects to improved roads, sidewalks, storm drainage. The Public Works Department will be providing expanded performance measure information based on outcomes citizens rather than simply quantities. We will go through another financial and programmatic evaluation to determine whether the value of the Town’s water and sewer system is best managed by the Town or transitioned to Fairfax Water.
Well, I have been told there are STILL too many yard signs in the box they were shipped in.
Can you help me? Flynn would REALLY appreciate having the box to himself…
Vienna Little League opened their season this morning. I was able to get to Yeonas Park early to sit and watch the morning unfold from the hill above the Nance Field. This wasn’t a time for campaigning, rather a time to just…be, because baseball is something special, timeless…even more so with kids.
As the kids arrived and joined their teams for photos, the kids of all ages had this shared easiness and expectation for the coming season…and it was great to see kids enthusiastically wearing Cubs uniforms (I am a life-time northsider)
So, as they announced to close the opening day ceremonies, “Play ball! ! !”
[BACKGROUND: The Vienna Chapter of the Nationals Association of Retired Federal Employees hosted a candidate forum on Tuesday, April 12th. One specific question they asked of all candidates is provided below along with response.]
Share your thoughts on the construction of the new Vienna Community Center.
I think we have faced a series of challenges with the design/development and now construction of the community center. The hiring of the construction project manager the project has definitely improved the Town’s ability to affirmatively manage the project. I believe we now have in place the right people and right approach to keep the designer and contractor accountable. Having the Parks and Recreation Director and Construction Manager provide updates at each Council meeting and work session has increased accountability as well. We cannot fix what has happened in the past but we can work toward having the project come in within the modified schedule and budget. We are by no means near the end of the road and so this will require vigilance on the part of staff and the Council.
The other element I plan on keeping a keen eye on is staffing/programming in the interim until completion and for when the new community center is open. Running the new center will be different than the old building and staff must be prepared to hit the ground running. Input from the Community Survey will be helpful here as well.
Next up is the police station. Our construction project manager should put together as lessons learned memo from the community center that would be used by the Department of Public Works and the Police Department to inform the design, constructability/value engineering process as well as the expectations of the contractor. Police stations bring a whole other aspect of security and information technology into the project and we should not be afraid to identify the right assistance up front.